I mentioned a few months back (or more than just a few, I guess... where does the time go?!?) that we inherited this dog, Keeper, when we moved onto the farm. He has been most gracious in letting our entire brood -- children, dogs, horses and all -- move onto his territory. I dare say he even likes our company, although I know he misses my father-in-law.
He gets along with our dogs just fine. He never bothers the horses. He is gentle and kind with the kids and he is just sweet all around.
Except when it comes to cats.
He H.A.T.E.S. cats.
This worried us when we brought Paula Deen onto the premises. Ever since we have been here she has lived in the wood shop in our downstairs. Since Keeper is pretty old, deaf and his other senses are possibly deteriorating as well, we figured that maybe we would eventually get him used to her and she could live outdoors. This 'getting him used to her' process has not yet happened. We've been fairly preoccupied, and PD seems quite content in being a wood shop cat, so we have sort of left well-enough alone.
And besides, Paula Deen now has Charlotte to keep her company.
Charlotte, the kitten that hypnotized us with her cuteness and finagled her way into our car last fall.
Charlotte, who has brought our children hours of giggles and delight.
Charlotte, the catalyst for Keeper's display of pure cat hatred.
Charlotte, who I will tell you -- because it would be cruel to let you read this next part without first knowing this -- is still full of life.
But she's definitely down to eight... Lives, that is.
One busy winter day, Keeper's hatred of cats came much more sharply into focus... I was hustling around, trying to get out the door to drop the kids off at my sister-in-law's house before heading to work. Not only was I carrying the kids and all their loot, but I was also planning on staying overnight with my aunt that evening, so I was shlepping my suitcase along as well. I got the kids buckled in the car (in the garage) and trotted back in quickly to grab my suitcase. As I was going out the door I was spouting back to my mother-in-law, who had stopped in, to make sure to shut the door tightly between the garage and the wood shop when she left, as the cats were in the wood shop and the dogs (including Keeper, the otherwise-perfect-but-cat-hater-nonetheless dog) were in the garage. The two entities were to remain separate. Always.
Burley would have probably grown up to be a cat hater too, had we not trained it out of him at a tender age. When he was a young pup and we got a couple of kittens, his instincts were definitely very, very strong to chomp them into oblivion. However, after about four days of intense monitoring and pretty harsh discipline, he finally got the concept and allowed the kittens to be part of his 'pack'. Ever since, he has had a healthy respect for cats, if only because he knows that being agressive toward them is simply not allowed.
Timber would have his own cat if he could. Timber would sleep in a pile of kittens if he ever had the opportunity. He loves cats. They're more his size and they don't try to boss him around. Our other beagle, Lucy, loved them too. I don't know if it's a beagle thing or what. Anyhow, he looooooves them.
(I apologize, to Timber and to you, that this isn't the most flattering picture of him. I'll do better next time. Can you guess what he's eating in this picture, though?)
Keeper... He.... Well, he's always been a farm dog. And farm dogs sort of just grow up knowing that it's their job to take care of any vermin. And to him, cats qualify as vermin. So, Keeper... He... He...
So you can see why it has been important to us to keep them apart.
So. I was on my way out the door. Just seconds earlier I had told my mother-in-law to be careful when she left. What happened next was the last thing I had in mind... I went through the door between the wood shop and the garage. I turned around somewhat awkwardly to get my suitcase through, while trying to get the door shut behind me. I wasn't fast enough. Charlotte had scampered along behind me. In a split second I saw Keeper lunge. In another split second I heard Charlotte scream.
Have you ever heard a kitten scream? Have you?
I hope you never do.
The worst part was, not only did her hissing and screaming immediately trigger me to drop my suitcase and attempt to rescue her, it also triggered some primal instinct inside of Burley. He rushed to the aid of his canine compatriot. Together they would take care of this vermin.
There I was, struggling between two fairly large dogs who had momentarily lost all trace of any domesticity, screaming myself, desperately trying to put a stop to this situation before my worst fears were realized. It was like a scene from Nature, except for the crazy human in the middle of it all. I was not going to let nature take its course. The dogs, however, were utterly and completely intent on ripping her to shreds.
At one point I got ahold of Keeper's collar and Burley's scruff (he had no collar on) and I think that Charlotte was free of them, but with both hands completely full of two dogs in kill-mode, I had no way of getting her out of their reach. I tried to kick her back through the door, but this failed. And she definitely did not appreciate the kicking. Right about then, between my screaming and my hand clenching his neck, Burley's senses returned and he backed off. Keeper, however, was not to be deterred. He once again grabbed onto Charlotte and was trying to get away from me with her. You know how they say crocodiles take their prey down to the bottom of the lake or river to deliver their final crunch? The 'death roll'? This was what he was trying to do.
I knew it. He knew it. There was no way I was going to let that happen.
I eventually ended up ramming him into the nearby file cabinet to loosen his hold. I got a better grip on her and pulllllllled her, still clawing and screaming frantically, from his mouth. I still shudder when I think about that feeling of pulling her out of his mouth... You know what it feels like when you're trying to pull apart a whole raw chicken? That was what it felt like as I pulled her thigh and leg from his mouth. I could feel things inside of her straining, but I had to do it. It was either get her free from his grip or else...
I scooped her up into my arms and threw myself into the wood shop, flinging the door shut behind me. I stood there, holding her, shaking uncontrollably, my heart pounding so rapidly I could feel it through the wall of my chest. Charlotte was shaking as well. My mother-in-law, hearing the racket, came running in. I could barely speak to tell her what had just happened.
I brought Charlotte over to Paula Deen and gave her a once over. From what I could tell, it looked like she was only bleeding a little bit from her foot, but for all I knew they had crunched on her hard enough to hurt her inside. She seemed shaken up, but otherwise pretty good. And I had to go... I was going to be late for work! But not before I bandaged myself up a bit. I looked down to see bleeding cat scratches all over my right hand and wrist. I ran in and grabbed some band-aids and antibiotic ointment. When I got to my sister-in-law's to drop off the kids, I washed myself up and put them on.
As I drove away, on my way to work, on my way back to the 'real' world, the world that I normally live in where kittens are not almost ripped to shreds right in front of me, I was stunned. Did that really just happen? I couldn't stop thinking about how instant and brutal the whole thing was. I couldn't stop thinking about that feeling of pulling her out of his mouth. I couldn't stop wondering if she was going to be o.k.
I called Mr. Blue Eyes at work and told him what had happened. I seriously didn't know if he would arrive home from work that day to a kitten that was dead or alive. Luckily I had a long drive to my own job and it afforded me some time to settle down.
That night, Mr. Blue Eyes told me that Charlotte was limping, but other than that she seemed o.k. This all happened a couple of months ago, and today Charlotte seems as perfect as ever. It's quite evident that the whole situation scarred me much more than Charlotte.
Charlotte, the cat who I'm pretty sure would scamper right back into that same garage with those same dogs if we let her.
Charlotte, the cat who has completely forgotten that she was ever in the valley of the shadow of death.
Charlotte, the cat who most certainly needs all eight lives she has left.